The body fat-disease link
Everybody wants to live a long and healthy life. But, if you carry excess body fat on your frame, then you may be setting yourself up for a shorter lifespan than the one you were aiming for.
Excess body fat is directly linked to so many diseases that it can no longer be thought of as solely a cosmetic issue. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, numerous cancers, gallbladder disease, immune dysfunction, sleep apnea, infertility, and osteoarthritis (degeneration of the cartilage and bone in the joints) are just the tip of the iceberg. The more body fat you have on your frame, the higher your risk of checking out well before your time.
So why do the majority of us seem to find it so easy to pack on the pounds after age 35, all the while losing the features that defined our youth—strength, vitality, immunity, sexual function and desire, skin tone, and memory?
Keep it long and lean
Lean body mass (muscle) to a very large extent controls the overall metabolic rate of the body. In fact, a study of 84 men and women aged 90 to 106, presented in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in 1997, showed that loss of muscle is the primary longevity factor.
When you grow or reactivate muscle metabolism, you actually enhance overall energy production, burn more calories and in the process, more fat. Enhanced muscle mass has also been linked to lower levels of stress hormones. Elevated stress hormones are a contributing factor to muscle breakdown. Research indicates that stress levels (cortisol) in older people are typically two to four times those of younger ones—both at rest and with exercise.
Many studies have shown that the maintenance of muscle mass is not only associated with lower body fat levels, but also increased energy, better mood, stronger connective tissue and bones, better immunity and according to Japanese researchers, possibly even enhanced memory. Researchers have discovered that low cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)—well documented in the elderly—is a possible risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. It turns out that elderly people who maintain muscle mass through full range-of-motion exercises have the same level of CSF as younger people.
The take-home message is that healthy aging is controlled to a large extent by your metabolism and, in turn, your metabolism is controlled by your muscle mass and activity.
How to maintain muscle mass
- Consume sufficient protein every two and a half to three hours (high-alpha whey protein shakes are a great substitute for one or two protein meals).
- Perform weight-bearing exercise every other day. Resistance exercise stimulates new muscle growth and helps maintain metabolism.
- Supplement with ergogenic (muscle-enhancing) aids like high-alpha whey protein, micronized creatine monohydrate, and branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), before or immediately after training.
- Reduce stress. Excess stress interferes with DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), one of your body's most powerful anabolic hormones. Research shows that lowered stress levels cause an increase in DHEA levels. For starters, try reducing your caffeine consumption.
- Ravaglia G, et al. Determinants of functional status in healthy Italian nonagenarians and centenarians: a comprehensive functional assessment by the instruments of geriatric practice. J Am Geriatr Soc. 1997 Oct;45(10):1196-202.
- Ziegler, MG, Lake, CR, Kopin, IJ (1976) Plasma noradrenaline increases with age. Nature 261,333-335
- Mitsui S, Okui A, Uemura H, Mizuno T, Yamada T, Yamamura Y, Yamaguchi N. Decreased cerebrospinal fluid levels of neurosin (KLK6), an aging-related protease, as a possible new risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2002 Nov;977:216-23.
- Cherniske S. The Metabolic Plan. Ballantine Books, New York, 2003. Pg. 23-24.
- Bassit RA, Sawada LA, Bacurau RF, Navarro F, Costa Rosa LF. The effect of BCAA supplementation upon the immune response of triathletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 Jul;32(7):1214-9.
- Cruess DG, et al. Cognitive-behavioral stress management buffers decreases in dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S) and increases in the cortisol/DHEA-S ratio and reduces mood disturbance and perceived stress among HIV-seropositive men. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1999 Jul;24(5):537-49.
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